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Currently I'm working in a leadership/management position for a tech company. Part of my responsibilities is to help my team as a career advisor and guide them to improve their performance and achieve promotions in the future.

This career advisor role helped to build trust amongst my team mates, and usually they will approach me to talk about career outside our company, and I'm always open to discuss this topic, because I truly believe that they should be preparing themselves to the market as a whole, and not only our company.

Thanks to the built trust we have one of my colleagues approached me today and said they received a better job opportunity from another company. They are still thinking about accepting it or not, but my guts says that they probably will accept.

Important: I do not hold the decision to fire, promote or hire someone. While my opinion is highly important for any situation of this kind, I'm never the one to make the final decision.

Question: now that I have this information in my hands, should I disclose it with my direct boss (which will help us prepare for an eventual counter offer proposal) or should I remain silent about this to not risk the trust I built with this team member?

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    Was the information they shared confidential? Did they want you to tell the employer? If you're not sure, ask them. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 20 at 16:04
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    I wasn't making a judgment one way or another. I just wanted to make sure you knew for sure that he didn't want you to tell your employer. – Stephan Branczyk Jul 20 at 16:15
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    Don't you think your Stack Exchange account is being stalked by your colleagues? – Justozauras Jul 20 at 16:46
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    @JoeStrazzere I suspect this is the case. This person is not confident about talking directly to our upper manager. But as others said, the best would be to ask the employee first if they are okay with this approach. – Bonifacio Jul 20 at 19:34
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    @JoeStrazzere Your original comment isn't even here anymore. But okay. – HenryM Jul 21 at 0:49
168

As a leader, this information needs to be held in confidence. While one of your responsibilities is to protect the company, sharing this information actually doesn't do that. It sets up a condition where trust is eroded on both sides of the relationship. What you CAN do with this information is to seek opportunities within your company that meet the extra options being offered by this new company. Will they be getting better training opportunities? Lobby for them now. Will they be getting a pay raise? Lobby for it based on this person's merits.

The fact that this person is telling you and reluctant to just "up and go" is a huge plus for you. People don't leave bad companies, they leave bad "bosses". The fact that this person is agonizing over the choice indicates they are generally happy with their circumstances. Take this time to find ways to bridge the gap. If the company will not give in, then continue to listen and encourage.

When the time comes, if this person chooses to go, you will have an opportunity to share information with your managers on why, what they can do to improve, and what they need to do to stay competitive and retain talent.

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    This is a very wise approach. Thanks for sharing some insights, I will definitely look for opportunities inside our company that could meet my team mate desires! – Bonifacio Jul 20 at 16:26
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    To add to this, depending on cultural specifics, you could also talk to the person directly and ask them about it, i.e. "You told me you're considering a role in another company, is there anything you'd like me to do with this information in a professional capacity?" or "Is there anything you feel is lacking about your current position?". Granted, in some culture this will come off as rude. – Cronax Jul 21 at 7:41
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    While "People don't leave bad companies, the leave bad bosses" is an insightful bit of conventional wisdom, people also leave bad roles--like when the opportunity for growth (personal, salary, etc.) just isn't there, which may be out of the boss' hands entirely. – Tiercelet Jul 21 at 14:00
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    Having been in a similar situation where I confided in someone who assured me what I said would be confidential, and they then went to management, this is excellent advice. I felt completely betrayed and thereafter made sure to not discuss anything related to staying or leaving with anyone in the company. – DaveG Jul 21 at 14:30
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    To add to this, whilst it may adversely affect your remaining time with this colleague, there's a bigger-picture problem. When (not if!) they tell the rest of your team that you can't be trusted, you can forget anyone else working with you for career advice. If that's part of your job role, you'll then have to explain at your next appraisal how none of your team will talk to you about careers because you ratted out this guy, and you can no longer do the job you're supposed to be doing. So as Joel says, don't go there. – Graham Jul 21 at 22:02
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Just ask the employee if you are allowed to share that information or not.

Perhaps they want you to share it, so you can use it as leverage on your boss to get a counter-offer out of them.

Perhaps they want you to fight for improvements for everyone, so they would agree to share it anonymously as leverage to improve the work conditions of the whole team. ("One important employee told me in confidence that they will quit unless we change X")

Perhaps they want you not to, so they don't get targeted by any retaliatory actions.

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  • This is a much better answer than the accepted one. Don't let a valued member of your team quite when a few thousand dollars would have kept them. – jambox Jul 21 at 13:10
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    However, on the flip-side, if the offer falls through, the employee can just say "No, I didn't told that to O.P.! That's all lies!", then you have an hot potato on your hands. – Ismael Miguel Jul 23 at 11:56
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If you have an official role as a career advisor, it seems only logical that what you can/can't share with whom is spelled out in your job description.

Your job is to help these employees achieve their career goals, so it seems the best thing you can do is find out what those goals are. What is this employee looking for in the new company that they are lacking in their current role?

Once you find out, you might ask the employee "may I share this with your supervisor to see what can be done?" and respect the answer, no matter what it is.

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I do not hold the decision to fire, promote or hire someone.

This means the faster you can prepare for the change, the better.

Now, this also depends on your relationship with your boss. In my case I would straight go to him to tell him someone may be leaving to start to fight for a hiring ticket, assess whether someone for another team would be a good candidate, etc.

What will not happen is retaliation against the employee. This is the case in my company, you should be careful if this is not in yours.

I had this case twice, where a trusted member of my team came to me 6 months before leaving to tell me that they are ready for the next adventure but want me to be prepared. The transition went through excessively well, with some people being informed early (my boss, despite the fact that I had all the powers to hire someone) and others later (the co-workers)

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4

Read between the lines

I'm working in a management position... part of my responsibilities is to help my team as a career advisor and guide them to... achieve promotions in the future.

one of my colleagues approached me today and said they received a better job opportunity from another company.

This person is aware you're a manager with the specific remit highlighted above, and they went to you and told you this. There's zero chance they did that without having your position in mind.

People generally aren't naive, and do things for specific reasons. If their actions do seem naive, you usually just haven't thought of those reasons.

Sounds to me like they want to open a conversation about a promotion, as a possible alternative to accepting this better job opportunity elsewhere. They trust you, and you're the manager responsible for guiding their career, so they've approached you about it first.

They are still thinking about accepting it or not

For me this confirms it. They haven't made a decision, so why would they even bring it up if they didn't want a conversation about it? It's not a statement, it's an invitation to convince them (and help convince your bosses) otherwise.

Your next step should be to have this conversation with your colleague!

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    This answer assumes that the employee is being rather devious and roundabout. It's also quite possible that the employee is truly conflicted and trying to talk the decision thru with a trusted colleague. Trust that will disappear the instant that colleague goes to his boss. – DaveG Jul 21 at 14:34
  • @DaveG That's not a binary thing though, you can easily approach the boss and try to convince them about promoting X without giving away that X has another offer - just on their general effort. Their performance obviously needs to back that up, otherwise it's wasted time and unfair for everyone else who didn't dip their feet in foreign waters. That said, whether it's likely this was planned or not also depends on how exactly it did come up. Was X asked something to which having an offer is just an honest open answer or did X bring this up out of the blue. Lot's of interpretation room. – Frank Hopkins Jul 21 at 15:07
  • @DaveG Intended or not, giving X a clear view of their current status and potential short and long-term improvement options is a good way to help X and the company. If that should already be clear to X because of regular meetings, fine, but otherwise having such a talk seems appropriate no matter the motivation of X to speak up. – Frank Hopkins Jul 21 at 15:10
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    "People generally aren't naive, and do things for specific reasons" I disagree with this as a blanket statement - a lot of people will talk about something like this just because it is the topic on their mind. However this may be an invitation to try & dissuade them so the rest of the answer is valid as a possible scenario – Dragonel Jul 21 at 15:38
  • @DaveG yes, that's possible. Not suggesting assuming anything actually - just having an open ended conversation with them to figure that out (even though, in my view, it's very likely that they do want to discuss the possibility of a promotion). I perhaps didn't make that clear. I'm not sure what you're referring to with the 'going to the boss' bit though, I think my answer is very clearly not suggesting that :-) – davnicwil Jul 21 at 15:50
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Trust is something very, very valuable. You worked hard to build the trust. By passing this information on, you destroy the trust, and not just for that person, but for everyone. That will be more damaging for the company than any possible gain.

Until an employee gives notice, you don't know whether they will be leaving or not. So don't do anything rash. If the employee tells you that he isn't thinking about leaving, but decided to leave, then you take that into consideration (like documentation is now a bit more important than new tasks) but you still don't tell your boss.

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What you're facing is essentially a conflict of responsibilities. It is not at all uncommon in any managerial position.

Here the conflict is between: 1) responsibility to keep the confidence and trust of the employee that confided in you and 2) responsibility to your joint boss and employer/organisation.

There is a happy resolution to the conflict under some circumstances. For instance, if you know your joint boss is not the sort to take this news as a personal slight, and is likely to make a counter-offer with a view to retaining the employee, then you should urge the employee to permit you to take it up with the boss to "make the case" for better terms. If you succeed in persuading the employee, then you're free and clear to discuss this with your joint boss. Under no circumstances should you attempt to discuss this with your joint boss without getting the employee's permission - that would be a betrayal of trust. And if the employee doesn't care about staying, no matter what the counter-offer might be, that's really their decision, not yours.

Now, if (in your judgement) the joint boss is likely to take this amiss and/or not bother to try retaining the staff, then there is no reason to even try persuading the employee to let you inform the joint boss.

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I've been team lead plenty of times, and I prefer that very much to being 'boss' with firing power because it means I get the admiration for my knowledge level without the responsibility. I also like having colleagues instead of underlings, and that's how this person things of you: as a colleague. He was asking advice, and you would be awful to betray that confidence.

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  • this seems to merely repeat points made (and frankly, much better explained) in prior answers – gnat Jul 22 at 22:41
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    Friendly advice - this answer could be improved with less focus on your experience as team lead and more on the impact the betrayal of confidence would have. – ASDFQWERTY Jul 22 at 22:52
  • Chris, welcome to the workplace SE, and welcome to our process! – employee-X Jul 23 at 20:58
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"I'm not a lawyer," but in my opinion, since you do not yourself hold direct hiring authority, you should immediately pass the information to your manager – who presumably does.

It is up to that person – not you – to use that disclosure as s/he sees fit.

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    This answer would be improved if you added an explanation of why you think that would be the best course of action. Personally I think this is terrible advice that will not only destroy the trust they've built up with this particular person, but with any other employees that currently trust them – Kevin Wells Jul 22 at 19:48
  • I suspect you, personally, would never be put in this position. – Chris Bordeman Jul 22 at 19:56
  • If I told a coworker in confidence that I had a job offer and they went to my boss behind my back, I would never want to work with that person again. – Brandon Jul 23 at 15:59

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